Black Honey: Barn, bakery, café and secret garden, right downtown
217 Hunter St. West
There’s a lot of life sprouting in the heart of the Hunter Street Café District. Right in the middle of downtown Peterborough, you’ll find everything from cherry tomatoes to beets, cilantro, and apples, enough to make dozens of jars of jelly, coming up from the ground behind Black Honey, between their café and a bakery that was once a barn. “It’s all things that we can pick, and keep growing,” says owner Lisa Dixon. “That’s the fundamentally the way I work—you go to the garden.”
The café is a cozy spot, and has been a fixture on Hunter Street for 15 years. The space is filled with local artwork, board games, warm lamps, and a busy counter serving up locally roasted coffee, as well as both sinfully sweet and rich savoury items. Outside, behind it, the patio, and the plants. And just across a small parking lot, the bakery itself, which runs 24 hours a day, creating everything from breads using local microbrews, to their bestselling chocolate paradise cake. “This used to be a barn. There was an owl inside, I used to watch him every day from the kitchen of the café,” explains Dixon. “When the barn fell over about ten years ago, I bought it, and rebuilt it as the bakery.”
And in addition to all the goodness she grows on site, Dixon sources as many ingredients as possible from farmers within Peterborough County. “I’ve been visiting producers, just walking around and saying, ‘What’s this? What’s that?,’” she explains. Mushrooms come from nearby, a farmer who holds a science PhD and will grow whatever she likes, given the time. Wild foragers bring in white asparagus, wild leeks and morrels from the forest. “They won’t tell me where they find them!,” she laughs. Kale, leafy greens and edible flowers she gets from Cedar Grove Organic Farm near the village of Omemee. And Dixon sources beef from Traynor Farms. “That’s not even a ten minute drive from here,” she says. “It’s special food. When the farmer is excited about it, we’re excited about it, and take care of it.”
Black Honey’s brunch is legendary, and includes an eggs benedict that can be ordered six different ways (from creamy goat cheese and mango, to Canadian-style, with back bacon), and her local ethos extends to her catering business, which serves a lot of weddings. “If they ask for shrimp, we’ll suggest something more seasonal, like arctic char,” she says.
That care and dedication is evident from the first bite of the meal she serves today, which includes the ATB—an avocado, tomato and bacon sandwich. The bacon, firm with a bit of crunch, has been cured and then maple smoked, and the bread, which is sweet without being cloying, baked with Red Fife wheat, which has a long local history. The avocado adds a nice, light note to finish. “It’s simple,” she says. “Everything I do, I do with love.”